Resigned priests are starting to emerge as a strong moral voice in support of marriage equality. Earlier this year, 80 resigned priests made a statement in support of marriage equality. This week, a group of 63 resigned priests in Washington State have made a public statement in support of the referendum to legalize marriage for gay and lesbian couples.
Reuters quoted from the statement to explain the group’s reason for making their views known:
“We feel the bishops are abusing their power in attempting to direct Catholics on how to vote on this civil matter and impose their position on all citizens, Catholic and non-Catholic.”
Pat Callahan, a church-goer who had been a priest for 15 years, organized the effort, and explained another motivation to Reuters:
“Progressive-thinking Catholics need the reassurance that there is more than one authentic Catholic position.”
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer cites a passage from the resigned priests’ statement:
“Nothing in this legislation infringes on religious rights or restricts the Catholic Church from maintaining its own standards for sacramental marriage: It simply provides the protection of civil law so that same sex couples may enjoy a set of civil and human rights involving health, financial and end-of-life decisions,” said the former priests, who remain active Catholics.
“We regret that our Washington State Catholic bishops have chosen to oppose Marriage Equality and attempt to impose what we feel is a very narrow point of view on all society.”
A separate Post-Intelligencer article reports that the former priests’s statement comes right after one of Washington State’s bishops issued a pastoral letter against the referendum:
“In the latest pastoral letter, Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of the Diocese of Yakima told his 41 parishes that Referendum 74 ‘jeopardizes freedom rather than expands it” and “endangers our religious liberty and the rights of conscience.’
“ ‘Once marriage is redefined as a genderless contract, it will become legally discriminatory for public and private institutions such as schools to promote the unique meaning of marriage . . .This law will challenge our right to educate about the unique value of children being raised by his or her own mother and father in a stable home,’ Tyson wrote.
Tyson’s letter was directly countered by Catholics for Marriage Equality Washington:
“We are shocked when we read the language and examples used by our bishops to incite fear in our Catholic brothers and sisters if Referendum 74 passes. The message of Jesus is love and compassion, not fear.”
The former priests’ letter comes from a perspective with an immense amount of moral credibility: 1) they are men trained in theology and years of pastoral experience under their belts; 2) many of them are married and have raised families–perhaps even some with lesbian and gay children–and so they know the practical realities of love and relationship; 3) they are men who have been marginalized by church structures, so they know what it means to be excluded.
Their witness is a powerful testimony to both love of the church and the cause of justice and equality.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry